Honduras: non-dialogue in Costa Rica; real repression in Tegucigalpa
Both ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti, arriving in Costa Rica July 9 for talks on the Honduran impasse, denied that there is anything to discuss. "I am not here to negotiate," Zelaya said at a press conference upon his arrival in San José. "Not to advocate the return of a democratically elected president would be ridiculous." Saying that international opinion is behind him, he added: "We hope during the next 24 hours, tomorrow that is, we have a clear response by the golpistas who broke the democratic process in the country." (Inside Costa Rica, July 9)
Micheletti also insisted that he was in Costa Rica to "dialogue and not to negotiate," and he would not consider the return of Zelaya to power. Saying that the Honduran state, military and majority of the populace are behind him, he added that he had come to power through a "constitutional sucession," declared legal by the country's judiciary.
In fact, the two leaders apparently never met. AFP reported that President Oscar Arias, the appointed mediator, met separately with each of them in his private residence—first with Zelaya and later with Micheletti. The Miami Herald reported that Zelaya and his delegation were miffed by Arias' reference to Micheletti as "acting president." Zelaya stated in response that Micheletti should be arrested by Costa Rica, not received as a guest.
The trip was also complicated by the fact that Nicaragua initially denied Micheletti's delegation the right to fly through its airspace. Although Nicaragua finally relented, the flight was diverted out over the Pacific rather than cross Nicaraguan territory. (Miami Herald, AFP, July 9)
Tension grows with Nicaragua
Over the weekend—as Zelaya's attempt to land at the Tegucigalpa airport was barred by the military, sparking a deadly clash with protesters—tensions also escalated between the coup regime and Nicaragua. Micheletti on July 5 accused Managua of massing troops on the border. He called on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to respect Honduras' sovereignty, and warned that Honduras is capable of defending itself. (Xinhua, July 5)
Nicaragua immediately denied the accusation. "These reports are totally false... I have no information on why [Micheletti] made those statements," said Nicaraguan military spokesman Brig. Gen. Adolfo Zepeda. He added that "the army has clear instructions not to interfere in Honduras." (AFP, Jul 5)
Has the US withdrawn recognition?
The world media remains ambiguous on the matter, but the Honduran daily La Prensa cites a statement from the US Embassy reading: "The Government of the United States is conducting a complete review of all of its foreign assistance programs in order to determine how much of this assistance it may be legally obligated to suspend due to the coup d'etat and the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya that took place on June 28. This is a careful and deliberate process." The statement also says that US military cooperation with Honduras has already been suspended. (La Prensa, July 8)
Reuters also cited an Embassy statement saying the US has suspended $16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras, and that a further $180 million in aid could also be at risk. (Reuters, July 9) The statement does not appear in any obvious place on the website of the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Bill Delahunt (D-MA) have sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter to the other members of the House asking them to sign on as co-sponsors to a resolution calling for the reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras. The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) is asking constituents to call their representative and ask them to sign on. The Capitol Switchboard number is: 202-224- 3121. (CISPES, July 9)
Racist chancellor out?
La Prensa also reports that Micheletti has removed Enrique Ortez Colindres as his chancellor (foreign minister) in response to the outcry over his calling Barack Obama a "negrito" in a TV interview. The new chancellor is named as Roberto Flores Bermúdez, who had days earlier been named as the de facto government's ambassador to Washington. (La Prensa, July 8)
Just yesterday, it was reported that Ortez Colindres had apologized for his racist statement while taking the oath of office at the presidential palace. The removal of Flores Bermúdez as ambassador may have been in response to reports on TeleSur yesterday that the US had cut off his recognition. (World War 4 Report, July 8)
Repression in Tegucigalpa
Chilling repression is reported from Honduras in the wake of the weekend's massive demonstrations. The Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared (COFADEH) reports that on the morning of July 9, José David Murillo Sánchez came to the group's Tegucigalpa office to give testimony about the death of his 19-year-old son, Isis Oved Murillo Mencilla, who was shot by army troops during the protest at the airport.
In the COFADEH offices, with members of the group serving as witnesses, he gave his testimony to an officer of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DGIC), and then left to return to his home in Olancho department. Witnesses came running to the COFADEH office soon after to say that police in civilian clothes had detained Murillo, put him in an unmarked car, and took him away.
COFADEH has confirmed that the DGIC detained Murillo on what they consider to be fraudulent charges from two years ago. José David Murillo Sanchez is a member of Olancho Environmental Movement (MAO), a campesino ecologist organization that has held protests against logging operations in the region. Writes the solidarity group Rights Action: "The DGIC seemingly agreed to take his testimony about the killing of his son as a trap, so as to detain him...part of an on-going crackdown in Honduras against members of the social movement. (Rights Action, July 9)